Journalist Marilyn Laudenslager, a former Exponent editor, died on Feb. 1 in Medford, N.J., leaving behind a legacy that includes hundreds, if not thousands, of articles on local Jewish communities.
She also leaves behind an extended family of siblings, half-siblings, children, grandchildren, stepchildren, step-grandchildren and step- great-grandchildren — many of whom are better writers because of her influence.
Laudenslager, who wrote under her first married name Marilyn Silverstein, was 80 when she died.
“She took every comma, every period, every word seriously,” said Josh Silverstein, Laudenslager’s youngest son. “She believed in the power and importance of the written word and was just very careful to try to get it right.”
Her decades as a journalist include 17 years at the Jewish Exponent, from 1985 until 2001, where she worked as the religion editor and features editor.
“She wanted to go after assignments that made things right,” said Fredda Sacharow, who served as the Jewish Exponent’s managing editor from 1986 until 1998. “She wanted to write about the homeless in Philadelphia. She wanted to write about things that she saw that could be made better by stories that she did.”
Laudenslager pursued topics others felt were a shanda for her to cover, including clergy abuse and the trial of Rabbi Fred Neulander, who was convicted of hiring two men to kill his wife. Laudenslager also went undercover to report on the Jews for Jesus movement.
Homelessness in the Jewish community was one of the topics she was most passionate about covering, even when her articles were not necessarily flattering to the Jewish community.
After leaving the Exponent in 2001, she continued to commit herself to Jewish writing.
She spent eight years at the New Jersey Jewish News, where she served as the Princeton/Mercer/Bucks bureau chief. She also worked as a freelance copy editor and edited a plethora of Jewish writing, including Sh’ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility, A Guide to Jewish Practice by Rabbi David Teutsch and the quarterly journal The Reconstructionist. She also did copyediting for The Forward and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Her work won her numerous awards, including from the American Jewish Press Association and the New Jersey Press Association.
“She had a passion there for the Jewish community that kept her doing that work,” Josh Silverstein said. “Even long after she left, she loved building rapport and relationships with rabbis and having discussions with them about Jewish customs and teachings. That’s just really where she developed her network, her sources. It was all there. Even when she left the Exponent, she wanted to keep that and wanted to continue to have a hand in talking about things of importance to the Jewish community.”
Laudenslager is survived by her husband Richard J. Laudenslager; three sons from her first marriage, Bob, Steven and Josh Silverstein; brother Harold Schachter; half-siblings Judy Miller, Rania James, Bonnie Wassall and David Schachter; five grandchildren; five stepchildren; 12 step-grandchildren and 15 step-great-grandchildren.